Friday Question of the Day – Transportation


As you may have heard by now 15th Street, NW between K St. and Massachusetts Ave. will remain 2-way at all times according to DDOT. In a press release they write:

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) announced today it will eliminate the reversible lanes on 15th Street, NW. Beginning on Monday, March 15, 2010, 15th Street between K Street and Massachusetts Avenue will operate as a two-way street at all times. Currently, that 3-block street of 15th Street already carries two way traffic for most of the day, but during the afternoon rush hour (4-6:30 pm) it is one-way northbound.

The change was requested by the Downtown Business Improvement District (BID) and was presented to Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANCs) 2B and 2F for comment. Neither ANC opposed the change.

DDOT also analyzed the traffic on 15th Street and found that four lanes are not required to handle the volume of traffic during the evening rush hour. In addition, the reversible lanes still cause confusion for motorists despite the fact that they have been in place for decades.

“We believe this will be a positive change for the downtown area,” said DDOT Director Gabe Klein. “It will improve the flow of traffic, make the businesses more accessible, and make 15th Street safer for everyone: motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians.”

Variable message signs (VMS) will be deployed to alert drivers to the new traffic pattern. The change will not impact 15Th Street north of Massachusetts Avenue which will remain one-way northbound at all times with a separated contra-flow lane for bicyclists.

Is this a good decision for 15th Street, NW?


Also since we’re talking about DDOT, I wanted to ask folks what they thought of powering the proposed street cars. If you’ll recall streetcars are slated to come into H Street, NE and Anacostia first and then to Georgia Ave. We spoke about the plans here. My question is: Would you object to the streetcars if they are powered by above ground/overhead wires?

57 Comment

  • Regarding 15th, man what changes from the days of old, where that was a key northbound auto corridor, inner city highway, perfectly timed lights, high speeds. Now this odd parking lane, a nearly unused bike lane (granted it’s winter!), and with the new Tivoli development area, traffic heading north can become a &^*tch. Once you hit the bottom of the hill now, combined with light timing issues, bus stops galore, pedestrians blocking turns, what is one to do but suffer through and wish we could charge a commuter tax!!! Or walk and take metro, ahhh….



    all we need is another crappy option for transportation –
    why can’t we just have ONE GOOD ONE

  • BRING ON THE STREETCARS! Wired or wireless!

  • Bring the streetcars! Overhead wires and all. Overheads are more reliable, and modern ones don’t impede views nearly as much as the old ones. Streetcars are cheaper by orders of magnitude than Metro, and will do a better job of serving people that actually live in Washington unlike Metro. I can’t wait!

  • Metro is failing – the writing is on the wall. An increasing number of deaths/injuries/collisions every year, budget problems, etc. I think DDOT saw this and instead of trying to get Metro to adapt and serve the changing needs of city residents and visitors they created their own system. Why pump more money into a failing bloated bureaucracy [WMATA] when they can make their own system from the ground up with better employees and equipment and real flexibility and management. The Circulator buses have proven hugely successful and are basically providing test routes for the upcoming street cars. The National Capitol Planning Commission [NCPC] and Congress could unfortunately prove to be a real impediment to streetcars with their ban on overhead wires downtown, but the city should be able to find a workaround – it could be a few years though. Realistically I don’t think we’ll see streetcars on Georgia Ave for at least five years, but I’d love to be proven wrong.

  • 5 years for Georgia Ave sounds too optimistic. I’m thinking more like 15-20 years. Hope i’m wrong, though.

  • Why DDot thinks it can successfully use a hybrid system of batteries and overhead wires when no other city does that is silly – especially since its been five years since the cars were ordered and no section of track is ready yet.
    As far as the old parts of our city no allowing overhead wires because it is historical – ummm Krakow, Poland allows them and that city is much older than DC.

    • Seriously,

      Compared to most cities on earth, nothing IN DC is even historical at all.

      • If you dont think dc is historical you don’t know what history is.

        • If you think DC is historical you must not be aware that every monumental “historical” building here is just a copy of some much much older authentically historical building from somewhere else in the world. And no.. a 200 year building isn’t “historical” — it’s can hardly even be considered old – it’s slightly used. As far as meaning that history was made here – lets meet in 500 years and see how it all turned out because for now its still to soon to know – and its starting to not look good.

          • I guess if you think a long story means a good story.

            To me that just shows a shallow understanding.

            And yes, I’m fully aware of our architectural borrowings and heritage.

          • Shallow how? I was pointing out that COMPARED to the rest of the world, DC and anything in it is just a blip of vague significance of humanity. Despite its current effect on the world, in comparison to true antiquity it is like a fart in the wind. There have been wars that lasted longer than the US has existed. To say that anything here has yet “stood the test of time” is truly a suggestions worthy of “shallow understanding”.

          • Um, any object that represents some kind of history being made is historical, regardless of its age. And whether or not the the seat of the US gov’t is still here in 500 years is irrelevant. European cities are full of old buildings that used to house governments that have disappeared; buildings that, more often than not, were modeled after other buildings. Weren’t we talking about streetcars anyway?

          • Most childish comment ever.

          • Not to get pedantic on you, but: pretty much any old building classified as “historical,” since basically it just means from the past. “Historic” means something important or influential in history (so yes, many of our old buildings are also historic).

          • Not too pedantic. Just accurate. Though pointing out anon’s failing grasp of basic grammar might sisuade him/her from providing more “lessons” on history for the rest of us, which would be tragic for commedy. I was hoping anon would next provide an exposition on what cities are “uniquer” than DC.

    • Quito Ecuador has them in their “old town” as well, which is also far more historic than anything in DC. I didn’t think it took away from the charm at all.

  • Yes to street cars with over head wires and all. San Francisco, Portland, OR, and Seattle use overhead wires in their transportation system.

  • I agree with… some… most of you? I actually think the overhead wires look kind of cool. Kind of like an old city. Just hang the damn wires, and lets get these bad boys running! I do wish they’d installed a neutral ground on some streets like they have in New Orleans, but whatever.

    Ontarioroader, that’s interesting, I’d never thought of it that way, but I bet you’re right about DDOT just trying to avoid the WMATA mess altogether.

  • no.. its going to be another crappily run – unreliable pile of nonsense that is always short on money.

    Why do you think it will be any different

  • I take 15th home, or used to. It used to be one of the well-planned commuter streets in DC and now is an utter mess. THe unprotected bike lane seemed unnecessary to me as there is a bike lane on 14th already. Also, they retimed the lights so traffic stops every block now. The one-way at K was very helpful because there is a huge bottleneck at K due to buses blocking an entire lane, so I predict most of this traffic is going to move over to 17th which is already pretty messed up, especially since UPS, USPS, and FedEX trucks block one and often 2 lanes every day, during rush hour.

  • This massive streetcar boondoggle will personally benefit me by taking me from door to door. But it’s a needless waste of money, and everyone will learn how un-functional these things are only after it’s too late.

  • I would happily vote for a ban on truck deliveries during rush hour.

    That is an interesting comment on having the street car company outside of wmata. I’m not sure it gets us anything tangible, but it’s an interesting comment. I hadn’t realized that it would not fall under wmata. The downside of course will be a total lack of synchronization between the systems, but I suppose there’s no synchronization w/i wmata either.

    • I don’t think delivery trucks are supposed to be there during rush hour – which leads to another point: 6:30 as the end of rush hour restrictions is unrealistic. Rush hour goes well past 7pm in DC. I’d say extend it to at least 7:30.

    • I’d support a ban on ILLEGAL rush hour deliveries. I have no problem with businesses using authorized loading zones or alleys (because, yes, sometimes you do need to receive deliveries during rush hour) – it’s the jackasses who double park or block bike/parking lanes that piss me off.

  • I really do not understand the street cars. They all run along MAJOR bus routes/metro lines. I don’t understand why people just can’t use the bus; why are people so afraid of buses? I really think that Metro could use funds for more important things…

  • Yes this is a good change for 15th. 15th should not be used as an expressway for a quick escape from downtown in the evening.

  • Monorail please.

  • I don’t know. I lived in SF and they worked pretty well. Much better for enliving the street experience. Seattle and Portland (and hell Dallas and Charlotte) have built wildly successful systems. Much more successful than anyone predicted.

  • All for overhead lines, on all routes. As mentioned, I’ve seen them in cities that have far more historical charm than DC, and didn’t feel they took anything away. If anything, they made them look that much cooler.

  • Let’s just hope they find some decent operators. Nobody should be paid $100,000/year to sit on their a** operating one of these things.

  • Don’t care what technology they use – just start the construction on GA Ave already!

  • I used to live at 15th and Mass and took advantage of the afternoon one way, but I always thought it was a terrible idea. Lots of tourists driving through and the signage was terrible. At least once a week I saw someone going the wrong way. It also never seemed very crowded.

  • I grew up in Portland–and over the past couple years when I’ve been visiting my folks, I’ve looked at the overhead wires a bunch to try to picture how they’d hurt the DC viewsheds. I really have a lot of trouble seeing the problem that NCPC and others believe will be there. They are are nearly invisible. Also, people LOVE using the streetcars.

    I take buses, but I wish that they were streetcars. They are quieter, cleaner (environmentally–no exhaust!), and most importantly, car drivers get out of their way unlike buses. It just works better than buses. And did for a long time in this city and many others before Detroit/Akron successfully pushed cities to switch to buses and shut down the old street car systems. A lot of the streets in DC were actually built with streetcar use in mind (Penn Ave SE comes to mind as a prime example).

  • I adamantly oppose overhead wires. One thing that makes DC more attractable and photogenic is not having to see power, telephone, and streetcar lines overhead. Pierre L’Enfant designed this city to not have these overhead lines and we have followed this for over 200 years. Can you imagine these in front of the White House or the Capital? DC purchased those streetcars prematurely and they need to come up a solution that does not have overhead lines.

  • Anything that makes drivind in the city a hellish experience I’m all for it.

  • I agree that these were purchased WAY too early. So my one question that no one seems willing or able to answer; WMATA is currently ‘taking care of’ DC’s streetcars at their rail yard – what is this storage and maintenance costing us? Has anyone ever heard why these were purchased several years before the first one will be on the street?

    • because the funds were available and the test tracks were supposed to have been completed a long time ago.

      we piggybacked on an order with portland, so we got a bulk rate.

      and we only bought three.

  • Really? Pierre L’Enfant envisioned electrical street cars with overhead wires and thus set out to prevent this from occurring?

  • Pierre L’Enfant designed the city before electricity so – you can’t really designed the city not to have them – theyd didn’t exist.
    I think they can be done very well in the older sections of the city with the use of achitectual interesting poles/combo light poles.

    If they can run the streetcar’s as well as they run the circulator then I have high hopes for the street car. What they need to do is after the street cars go in is cut the busses in that area to reduce Metro costs, and force folks onto the street cars.

    • he may have designed the city before streetcars, but he didnt build the entire city before street cars.

      a lot of the design that you see today on old streetcar lines was altered.

      penn se was a great example.

  • 100% for streetcars and 100% for overhead wires. They are not even noticeable in modern systems.

  • I would love to see overhead wires used in our streetcars, it is so old-timey, and it would be great if they could incorporate a nice architectural effect with the supporting poles… an updated compliment to our metro’s style. Plus it will be exciting to see what might go wrong stringing high voltage wire just out of arm’s reach of our district’s residents.

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